A new version of the adblocking extension “AdBlock” just rolled out, informing its users that it has been acquired by an unnamed company, and that in connection to that acquisition has joined forces with Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads program.
Historically, there has been little love lost between the two browser extensions. AdBlock’s market share had been increasing more rapidly than Adblock Plus’s, due to its dominance on the Chrome browser (and possibly due to its previous uncompromising approach to blocking ads). Much of AdBlock’s success on Chrome can be attributed to it launching in 2009, 5 years after Adblock Plus, with an extremely similar name, logo and implementation.
Implications and Insights
It will take a while for the full implications of this consolidation of the adblock world to become clear. In the meantime, here are some thoughts:
- It is a happy day for search engines, most of which reportedly pay Adblock Plus to be whitelisted under Adblock Plus’s Acceptable Ads program. When enabled on Adblock Plus alone, whitelisting provided reach to about 50% of adblock users (based on numbers gathered from PageFair Ads served through the whitelisting program). With AdBlock also supporting whitelisting, this should jump up to about 90%. Back-of-envelope, could boost search revenue on Google.com by about $2 billion.
- Who now controls the AdBlock extension? The announcement did not reveal who the acquirer is. A natural acquirer could be Adblock Plus, given that they would benefit from a consolidated user base and increased relevance of the Acceptable Ads program (which they also control).
- uBlock Origin will become the new contender, enjoying increased adoption as hardcore users leave AdBlock in search of an adblocker that takes no prisoners.
- Dean Murphy, the creator of iOS Content Blocker Crystal, also announced on Sunday that he has joined up with Adblock Plus’s acceptable ads program. According to his post, he will receive a fee from Adblock Plus as part of the deal. A similar deal could be place with the new owners of AdBlock.
- The IAB recently declared war on adblockers in the strongest terms. On the IAB website, IAB CEO Randal Rothenberg calls for-profit adblocking “robbery, plain and simple — an extortionist scheme“. With today’s news, the enemy the IAB has declared against has just doubled in size.
- We previously reported on various lawsuits waged against Adblock Plus in Germany this year, some of which were based on an anti-competitive argument. Part of the (successful) defense was that Adblock Plus was merely one of many kinds of ad blocking. After this announcement, such a defense could be weakened. Regardless of the specific type of adblocking software in use, the Acceptable Ads whitelist now has clear market dominance.
- Adblock Plus’s recent announcement that future management of their whitelist will be adjudicated by an independent committee may be a very smart move to head off this kind of anti-competitive argument.
- Given that Adblock Plus just doubled the reach of its whitelist, the industry will wonder if higher fees will be required from the whitelist’s biggest customers (the search engines). It will be interesting to see whether the whitelist’s new independent board will increase transparency not only to the admission process, but to the fees and who is funding what.
If you have received the AdBlock update, you should be able to access this page at this address: chrome-extension://gighmmpiobklfepjocnamgkkbiglidom/pages/acceptable-ads-announcement.html